We’ll meet one last time this Tuesday.

We’ll begin our class with a final seminar discuss on our three final readings. The first is “‘When History Awakes’: A New Beginning,” the concluding chapter of Robin D. G. Kelley’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press, 2002). The next is an article from Lena Palacios titled “With Immediate Cause: Intense Dreaming as World-Making,” published in Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics. Finally we’ll read “Epilogue: Abolitionist Imperatives” by Dylan Rodríguez, the concluding chapter of his new book White Reconstruction: Domestic Warfare and the Logics of Genocide.

After our discussion, I’ll share some final thoughts for us. We’ll also use some class time to complete course evaluations.


FINAL ESSAYS (due Monday, May 10)

Our Final Essay assignments are due the first day of finals week. You should turn in your essay to our Sakai drop box no later than Monday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m. (PDT). The essay MUST be saved as a PDF file and named, your last name (or names), dash, “FINAL,” dot “pdf.” In other words, mine would be named: “SummersSandoval-FINAL.pdf”

The essay should be at least 10 pages in length, written in accordance with the “Writing Guidelines” [link] including properly formatted footnotes and a complete bibliography (which is not part of the page count). A guide for how to compose your footnotes has been emailed to you. Footnote citations are written in a different way than Bibliographic citations. I’ll leave it to you to look up how to format bibliographies on your own.


WEEK 14: Presentations

It’s the second to last week of our class! That’s exciting, as it should be, but it’s also a big ball of emotions for me because I’ve enjoyed our weekly discussions to no end. I look forward to seeing and hearing what our last plenary brings.

Our class will start with that final plenary, a discussion of your collective writings and thoughts on the Angela Davis book. We don’t have a student leader for this plenary so I’ll need you all to bring your readied brains. I will kick off the discussion with a few questions posted in the chat but, as usual, the floor will be yours alone.

We’ll follow our plenary with a short presentation by each of you on your (still-in-formation) “Final Essays.” Your presentation should be less than 5 minutes long. You should prepare, but you don’t have to read it as a formal speech. Slides would be helpful as you share your thoughts with your audience.

As we discussed in class, this presentation should do the following:

  • PRESENT what you will argue (thesis);
  • INTRODUCE the story of your paper (what’s it about?);
  • SHOW some of the evidence you will use to substantiate your thesis; and
  • ASK your colleagues for feedback.

To make the process a little more celebratory, feel free to bring a tasty beverage and/or some snacks. This is a time of the semester that requires a little celebration, and as you all share how it is you are organizing and sharing the understanding you’ve built over the semester, we have even more cause to be happy.

Be well and take care until next time…

WEEK 13: Angela Davis

This week we will read and discuss Are Prisons Obsolete? (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011), by Angela Davis. As she tell us in the text, the book and its abolitionist argument are the product of a movement of thinkers and activists who, between the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, gave birth to the modern-day prison abolition movement.

We will read the entire book, but pay special attention to chapters 4 and 5. You will also write your last and final Reading Analysis (#10!) assignment on the book. Use that space to prepare for our in-class discussion.

We will begin our class with our second-to-last plenary on your collective writing from last week. Please read your classmates’ work, which are posted on Sakai.


This week feels like it’s the beginning of the end for our semester together. While we’re doing much of the same as before–a plenary discussion and a seminar discussion on new readings–you’ll be writing your penultimate Reading Analysis assignment and we’ll also do some work moving us toward a completed final essay.

We’ll start our time together with a student-led plenary (our second to last!). Please give some attention to the writing you and your classmates did last week and come prepared to share your thoughts and observations on the ways your fellow co-conspirators made meaning from last week’s readings.

After that we’ll convene to discuss three new readings. The first is “Deportability and the Carceral State” by Torrie Hester, our last selection from that important 2015 issue of the The Journal of American History [20_Hester.pdf]. The next piece is by Pomona Colege GWS professor Treva Ellison. Their “From Sanctuary to Safe Space: Gay and Lesbian Police-Reform Activism in Los Angeles” is a great introduction to their work as well as a formidable sample from a recent issue of the Radical History Review focused on policing [21_Ellison.pdf]. Finally, we’ll reading another selection from A. Naomi Paik, the third chapter from her recent book titled Bans, Walls, Raids, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the Twenty-First Century [22_Paik.pdf].

You will also write and turn in your second-to-last Reading Analysis (number 9, number 9) on the above readings.

We’re certainly on the downhill slope of the spring semester. While that will undoubtedly present some challenges for you, none is beyond your control and success. Breathe, focus, and bring yourself closer to the end fo the term, one small step at a time.


As we know from our reading this semester, the carceral patterns and forces in the United States frame a story much larger than just prison or detention systems. This week we’ll explore the carceral state in some of these other (but very related) realms.

We’ll begin the class with our weekly plenary, giving us a chance to delve more deeply into last week’s readings and the accompanying ideas you all brought to your reading of them. The plenary document is in Sakai. Please do more than just glance at it or even read it. Give it the same kind of attention you give to our other readings.

After plenary we’ll discuss three pieces from three authors. We’ll start with Julilly Kohler-Hausmann’ article “Guns and Butter: The Welfare State, the Carceral State, and the Politics of Exclusion in the Postwar United States” [17_KohlerHausmann.pdf]. We’ll also read “Crack in Los Angeles: Crisis, Militarization, and Black Response to the Late Twentieth-Century War on Drugs,” by Donna Murch [18_Murch.pdf]. Finally, we’ll read “Criminalizing Families of Color,” another chapter from the book Taking Children: A History of American Terror, by Laura Briggs [19_Briggs.pdf].

As you compose your latest Reading Analysis on the above set of readings, start to give some focused thought to the larger essay you’ll write for the end of the semester. How can these readings (and your discussion of them) serve the larger discussion you want to frame in that forthcoming essay? Do you best to make the writing you do now be writing you can use later.

Be well until next time…


This week should give us an opportunity to build on the concept of “the Sixties” by viewing it as a contested period where multiple forces and trends were taking root.

We’ll start class with our weekly plenary. Read this week’s collection of short essays with an eye toward identifying something you would like to bring forward in the discussion.

For our reading seminar portion of the class, we’ll analyze three separate readings: Elizabeth Hinton’s “‘A War within Our Own Boundaries’: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Rise of the Carceral State” [14_Hinton.pdf]; Heather McCarty’s “Blood in, Blood Out: The Emergence of California Prison Gangs in the 1960s” [15_McCarty.pdf]; and Robert Chase’s “We Are Not Slaves: Rethinking the Rise of Carceral States through the Lens of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement” [16_Chase.pdf].

As usual, your goal is to write your next Reading Analysis assignment (#7) based on the above readings. Now would be a good time to start developing these with your final essay in mind. That doesn’t mean choosing a topic or even thinking about this as a draft of that essay. More, it’s about using this as a productive and intentional thinking space for the work that is in formation, right now, in your mind (whether you realize it or not).

Take care and be well until next time…


We’re return to our regular routine this week–a plenary on the essays from week 6 and a seminar on new readings. But first, let’s talk about the “Final Essay” assignment that will be due at the end of the semester…

This assignment is pretty straight forward–it’s a 10 page paper on a topic or theme related to our class. That paper should put forth some kind of analytical argument, which is nothing other than a claim you will prove/substantiate through your engagement with sources of evidence. The sources you will use are any of the readings we’ve read as a class. You’re also free to use other sources we’ve read about or learned about through our readings, and, in fact, you are required to use at least one source that is cited in any one of our readings.

Here are the specifics of the assignment:

• 10 pages in length
• follow the Writing Guidelines but double-space the essay
• Footnotes your sources in proper footnotes citation style
• Make use of at least FIVE sources from our class readings
• Use at least ONE source that is cited by one of our assigned authors
• Include a properly-formatted bibliography of the sources you used

Your essay will be due via Sakai Dropbox by Monday, May 10 8:00 p.m. (PDT), or by Wednesday, May 5 at 8:00 p.m. (PDT) for graduating seniors. Save your essay as a single PDF document and name it your last name(s).

Each of you has already begun working on your Final Essay. The reading and thinking and writing you’ve done each week comprises that work. You task now is to develop your topic and argument more intentionally, so you can move forward in a more deliberate and focused manner.

We will dedicate an entire class to sharing our work in process. On April 27, each of you will make a 5-minute presentation of your paper-in-progress. At minimum you, should: 1) describe your topic; 2) present your argument; and 3) give us a “taste” or sample of how you’re supporting your claims with sources. You will also take a few questions from your classmates.

This week we’ll start our class with our regular Plenary session. It’ll give us a chance to reconnect with our work from before the break and learn from one another in a more focused way. Please prepare for your discussion by reading the plenary document posted on Sakai.

For the regular seminar portion of our class we’ll read some chapters from the book Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, by Dan Berger. We’ll read chapters 3, 4, and 6 from the book (a little more than 100 pages total), which are provided to you on Sakai [13_Berger.pdf]. To prepare for our discussion, and to record some of your initial analyses, you’ll write your Reading Analysis 6 shorty and turn it in using Google Drive.

Take care and be well until we see each other again…

WEEK 8 (after break)

Take a pause and breathe. You’re doing great. It’s not easy, and it’s not perfect, but it’s never meant to be that anyway. You’re all learning (and learning to learn) and moving forward. Continue to do that during the break, whether that involves work, rest (which is important), or the time to reflect on life (which is vital). And so I wish you all a peaceful spring break.

I feel lucky to be able to learn for a living. It’s a privilege, one I know most of us in this world do not enjoy. However lucky I feel, and however lucky I am, my life of learning is not the product of chance. It’s the result of the struggles and sacrifices of generations of people who came before me, some inside my family but most not. We are all the inheritors of the sacrifices of others, those who worked to make our lives of learning possible, and those who struggled to make the freedom and possibility we enjoy greater than those they experienced.

This week, we start to learn more about people and movements that have transformed our world and, in so doing, bequeathed to us the kinds of freedom we enjoy. However imperfect that freedom might be, it is better, richer, and more real because of their efforts.

For our next class we will not have a plenary. Instead, we will try to work with each other on learning more about the Black Freedom Struggle of the 20th century. We’ll do so through the life and work of Angela Davis.

I ask you to watch a film and read an essay in preparation for our class. The film is Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a 2013 documentary directed by Shola Lynch. It is available for you to view using the Video 47 tab on our Sakai class site. The essay is “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss, Angela Davis,” written by the legendary James Baldwin. His 1970 “letter” is available online at the New York Review of Books.

We’ll spend the class discussing both sources and learning a little bit more about the history they represent. We’ll also watch some other historic footage of those times. Finally, we’ll spend some of our class time discussing the cumulative essay that will be due at the end of our semester.

You don’t have to write a Reading Analysis for this week. We also won’t have our usual plenary. Just come prepared to share and to learn.

WEEK 6 (and then break)

Welcome to week 6 of our semester, the last week of class before spring break. While it might feel like a “typical” week for us in terms of format, we’ll get the chance to discuss the work of two heavy hitters in the field, both of which offering some useful conceptual frameworks for our study.

As usual, we’ll start with our weekly student-led plenary, paying special attention to the ideas and you all wrote last week. Prepare for that discussion by identifying at least one idea from that collection of analyses that you would like to discuss further. Just like any other reading, be prepared to draw our attention to a specific part of the text.

For the seminar portion of our meeting we will read two pieces: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and Transformation in Postwar American History,” by Heather Ann Thompson [11_Thompson.pdf]; and Robert T. Chase’s “Carceral Networks: Rethinking Region and Connecting Carceral Borders,” the introduction to Caging Borders and Carceral States: Incarcerations, Immigration Detentions, and Resistance, a 2019 book Chase edited [12_Chase.pdf]. Both are wonderfully smart historians doing important work in the field. They’ll make for a rich discussion and opportunity to learn.

Of course, you’ll also write your fifth Reading Analysis assignment. Use it as a way to prepare for Tuesday’s discussion.

I’m really enjoying spending time with and learning from you all. Thanks for your engagement and interest. Be well until next time…


Welcome to the fifth week of the semester! We’re moving along, with two weeks to go before our “it’s-still-winter-but-we’ll-call-it-spring” break, and this week we’ll spend time with three exceptional historians who explore some carceral formations in the early 20th century.

We start our meeting will our weekly student-led plenary. As you read last week’s analyses to prepare for that discussion, make a special effort to bring forward the topics and ideas we didn’t get to chance to discuss the week before.

This week we’ll also read and discuss three different readings as we delve more fully into the early 20th century. The first is by one of the most talented historians in the field of Latinx studies, Miroslava Chávez-García. “Youth of Color and California’s Carceral State: The Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility” [08_ChavezGarcia.pdf] is a 2015 article that gives you a peak into her 2012 book called States of Delinquency.

The next is “Bananas North, Deportees South: Punishment, Profits, and the Human Costs of the Business of Deportation,” by immigration historian Adam Goodman [09_Goodman.pdf]. And the last is the first chapter from the book Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps since World War II, by A. Naomi Paik [10_Paik.pdf].

As usual, you’ll write your next Reading Analysis (your fourth) on the reading.

I’ll be looking forward to our discussion this week. Be safe and be well until then…